All About Spinal Stenosis

August 1, 2016
All About Spinal Stenosis

What is Spinal Stenosis?

In the medical world, the term stenosis refers to the abnormal narrowing of a channel in the body. Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the bone channel that runs through vertebrae. This is the area that the spinal cord occupies. Normally, there is ample room for the spinal cord in the spinal channel. When someone develops spinal stenosis, as a result of disease or incident, there is no longer room for the cord. [1]

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

  • Aging- As people get older, a lot of different things can cause spinal stenosis. The deterioration of the body as you get older is called: degeneration. Bone spurs are one of the main causes of degenerative spinal stenosis. As the bone spurs grow, they move into the channel and put pressure on the spinal cord. Other issues, like the weakening of the spinal ligaments and joints can cause it also.
  •  Heredity- Sometimes people are born with spinal canals that are too small. This can cause considerably young people to develop spinal stenosis.
  •   Herniated Disc- When the health of one part of the spine is compromised, it usually places increased stress on other parts of the spine. For example, a herniated, or bulging, disc may place pressure on the spinal cord. The bulging part of the disc is what causes the spinal stenosis [2].
  •  Instability of the Spine- Sometimes, due to issues with the ligaments and spinal discs, a vertebra can actually slip forward or backward, causing the spine to be unstable. This misalignment can put pressure on the spinal cord.
  •  Tumors- Like bone spurs (mentioned earlier), abnormal growth of soft tissues can obstruct the available space in the spinal canal, causing spinal stenosis.
  •  Trauma- Injuries, like those acquired from car accidents or falls, can either misalign the vertebrae or cause what is called a burst fracture, in which a piece of bone breaks off, in this case lodging itself in the spinal channel. Spinal stenosis acquired from trauma can cause severe pain and suffering. Unlike the four causes above, injury-induced spinal stenosis happens in an instant, rather than gradually, giving no time for the patient to adjust or seek treatment before the pain gets severe.[3]

Who gets it?

Both men and women over the age of 50 get spinal stenosis. However, those who are born with a hereditary condition and those who suffer from injury-inducing trauma can develop it also [4].

What are the symptoms?

Besides the pain associated with most spine and back problems, other symptoms do arise. In fact, more often people experience numbness, weakness, cramping, and general pain in the arms and legs (called radiating pain).

Those with severe compression of the spinal cord caused by spinal stenosis can experience loss of bowel and bladder control, loss of sexual function, and/or pain, weakness, or numbness in one or both of their legs [5].  

Cervical versus Lumbar

Cervical spinal stenosis refers to stenosis that occurs in the neck portion of the spine. Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to it occurring in the lower back. Lumbar spinal stenosis is far more common, with 75% of cases occurring in this region of the spine [6]. Although lumbar is more common, cervical is much more serious, since it can result in permanent pain or paralysis, and should be treated right away. One of the simple signs that someone is suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis is that they find relief while sitting, or leaning forward while standing. This action changes the alignment of the vertebrae, creating relief by widening the canal.

How is Spinal Stenosis diagnosed?

The first step to diagnosing spinal stenosis is a series of questions, like:

  • When did the pain begin?
  • Was there an injury that could be related to the pain?
  • Where do you feel the pain? What is the intensity?
  • Does the pain radiate to other parts of the body?
  • What factors make the pain feel better or worse?
  • Have you had problems with your bladder or bowels?
  • Is there a history of osteoporosis in your family? [7]

The next step is usually a physical exam, checking for motion of the neck or spine, weakness, numbness, reflex changes, pain, sensory changes, and motor skills.

Finally, diagnostic tests are performed. The most common are imaging like x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans [8].

If you or a loved one is suffering from spinal stenosis due to an accident, injury, or another party's negligence, it is important to speak to a spinal cord injury attorney who will zealously represent you and obtain compensation on your behalf. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are skilled spinal cord injury attorneys and they are ready to review and evaluate your case.  Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today at 727-451-6900 to schedule your free legal case evaluation and consultation.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Ibid. [6] [7] [8] Ibid.


Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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